by Helen Jones
UPdate March 2000

     Strangely enough, the answer to that question depends on whether you live in or outside of the Halifax area.  On December 4, 1998, the Nova Scotia government bowed to pressures from the pesticide industry and passed legislation that left 54 of the 55 NS municipalities defenseless to regulate the use of urban pesticides (see Section 172(1)j, page 76, The Municipal Government Act (NS Government Bill 47).  Shockingly, these 54 communities are now prohibited from ever passing bylaws regulating urban pesticide use. The Halifax
Regional Municipality (HRM) is the sole jurisdiction permittd to control pesticide use.  This is a double standard.  Under the present two-tiered system,  residents in most NS communities can only ask for a "warning" when unlimited amounts of toxins will be applied near them. And 
there's no limit on how often pesticides can be applied.   You are only eligible for a warning if you or your children have already developed leukemia, other cancers, asthma, auto-immune
diseases etc.

     This marks the first time such  restrictive legislation has been passed  in Canada.  On the other hand, HRM has the ability to pass a   more positive  bylaw to regulate the use of urban pesticides.  Sectiooon 533,pages 225,226).  Among other features, this legislation does 
not require any pre-existing medical condition be present in order to register for protection from pesticides within HRM.  However, this is the exception to the rule for the rest of Nova Scotia.More than 100 members of the public, appearing before the  NS Legislature's Law Amendments Committee had demanded better protection and opposed the obstructive
jurisdiction in 172(1)j (formerly 174(1)j) that the government had proposed for the wholeprovince.

     With certain exceptions, the many public presentations were generally well received.   . Wayne Gaudet, Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, thanked "all those who took the time to make presentations to the Law Amendments Committee."  At the Second Reading for Bill 47, Dr. John Hamm, Leader of the PC's, commented on the unreasonable barriers
created to the adoption of pesticide bylaws by the provisions of Section172(1)j as follows,      "What would be wrong with saying to a municipality, if they wish to have a bylaw about controlling this (pesticide), why should they not have it.  Why is this Bill so specific on this issue: it raises a question that I cannot answer and I would hope some day the Minister
would answer it... This is a health issue and there are so many health issues we fail to address..."

     At Third Reading (for the now amended Bill 47), Mr. Kevin Deveaux, MLA (NDP), Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, eloquently summed up the situation with these words.
        "This is not just a small amendment that we made to the Municipal Act that now allows the Halifax Regional Municipality to fully regulate pesticide use,...This is, I think, an example of the changing politics in Nova Scotia and in this country, ..We had here, at the Law Amendments Committee, lobbyists, highly paid lobbyists from the Pesticide Management Control Association of Canada or some name like that, come forward and basically tell us  '.pesticides are completely healthy.' It reminded me of the tobacco companies, not too long ago,who were completely unwilling to recognize that tobacco caused cancer.. .  On the other side, we had individuals, not organized in any clear sense, but individuals, time after time, who came forward with their clear stories as to the effects of pesticides on them...Someday in the not too distant future, someone outside HRM is going to challenge that legislation and say that they do not have the same rights and protections as people in the Halifax Regional Municipality, and I do not think there is a court that will recognize the law is satisfactory ..."

     Certainly it is not satisfactory to deny to some Nova Scotian children  the important jurisdictional protections against pesticide exposures that have been provided for others in the province. Aren't all of our children and communities equally deserving of the best we can offer them, and a healthy environment in which to grow, free from the hormone disrupting house and garden pesticides that wreak havoc with growth and development?

     As for the residents of HRM, unless they can translate the jurisdiction they now have  into the actual passage of a pesticide bylaw which will reduce urban pesticide exposures through effective regulation, they still have no protection at all from the cancer causing pesticides being released in their neighbourhoods.  Unless HRM residents demand quicker progress and more energetic public education initiatives from their municipal government right now , delay and apathy will continue to prevail.

     Only time will prove how well and how quickly we can move to protect our communities.  Let us hope that our gift to our children in the new millenium will be a world in which they receive no further exposures to toxic lawn pesticides!